Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Which running watch should you buy?

Despite only launching the Forerunner 955 nine months ago, Garmin’s new top-of-the-line Forerunner just dropped, and you might be wondering whether it’s worth upgrading to the newer watch, or which to buy. Below, we put the Garmin Forerunner 955 and the Garmin Forerunner 965 head-to-head to help you choose between the two watches. 

The good news is that both are excellent, high-spec running watches with plenty of training tools to help you better understand your progress, your sleep and your recovery. The Forerunner 965 is the newer of the two watches, replacing the Forerunner 955 in Garmin’s running watch lineup. Both made it onto our list of the best Garmin watches and the best running watches

That said, both are still top-of-the-line running watches, that’ll set you back around $600.  If you’re a complete beginner looking for a more basic running watch, check out the Garmin Forerunner 55, which is the best entry-level running watch on our list. If you’re keen to read in-depth reviews before comparing the two, check out our Garmin Forerunner 955 review, as well as our Garmin Forerunner 965 review

Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Price and availability

Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

The Garmin Forerunner 965 was launched in March 2023, and costs $599/£599. While the Forerunner 955 came in a solar and non-solar version, there’s only one version of the 965 available. The watch comes in a grey titanium and a titanium bezel. The grey titanium watch comes with a black or yellow strap, the titanium bezel comes with a white strap. All cost the same, and, like with most of the best Garmin watches, the straps are interchangeable. 

When it was released in June 2022, the Forerunner 955 cost $499/£479 and the Forerunner 955 Solar cost $599/£549. As its name suggests, the solar version of the watch has a Power Glass screen, which harnesses the power of the Sun to increase the watch’s battery life. Aside from this, the two versions are identical. Both the 955 and the 955 Solar come in black and white. 

Winner: Forerunner 955 — if you’re on a budget, the Forerunner 955 is the cheaper of the two watches. Not only is it likely to be on sale now the 965 has been released, but even full-price it’s $100 cheaper. 

Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Specs at a glance 

These two watches look pretty similar, but there’s one huge difference, and that’s the screen. We’ve put the two head-to-head below: 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Forerunner 965
Header Cell - Column 0 Garmin Forerunner 955Garmin Forerunner 965
Screen size1.3 inch1.4 inch
Resolution260 x 260 pixels454 x 454 pixels
Case size46.5 x 46.5 x 14.4mm47.2 x 47.2 x 13.2 mm
Weight56g 53g
GPS battery life42 hours, 49 hours with solar31 hours
Smartwatch battery life15 days, 20 days with solar23 days
Memory32 GB32 GB
Garmin PayYesYes

Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Design and display 

a photo of the Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

Without the screen turned on, the Forerunner 955 and the Forerunner 965 look pretty similar. They’re both large, round watches with five different buttons — three on the left, and two on the right. The start/stop button on the Forerunner 965 is slightly larger than the other buttons, which is handy if you’re trying to reach it at a stoplight (yes, we all do that), and the bezel is made from titanium on the newer watch (compared to the fiber-reinforced polymer on the Forerunner 955). 

The main and only real difference between the two watches is the screen. The Forerunner 965 has an AMOLED screen, the same as that seen in the Epix 2 and the Forerunner 265. The AMOLED screen has a resolution of 454 x 454 pixels; it's extremely bright and easy to see in all weather conditions. The Forerunner 955 has a 64-color MIP display with a resolution of 260 x 260 pixels. It’s by no means dull, but next to the Forerunner 965, it’s nowhere near as bright. 

a photo of a sleep graph on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

The screen on the Forerunner 965 is also slightly bigger — 1.4 inches compared to 1.3 inches. Both watches have a responsive touchscreen, although it’s automatically disabled during activities, and you can turn it off entirely and just use the watch’s buttons should you wish. 

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 965 — the screen of the newer watch is its main selling point. It’s bright and beautiful and really does make the watch feel more premium.  

Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Battery life

a photo of the heart rate chart on Garmin Forerunner 255

(Image credit: Future/Jane McGuire)

The downside of an AMOLED screen? They drain your watch's battery faster. That said, compared to the likes of the Apple Watch Series 8 or the Apple Watch Ultra, the Forerunner 965 is still excellent. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Forerunner 955 Forerunner 955 SolarForerunner 965
Smartwatch mode15 days20 days23 days
GPS-only without music42 hours49 hours31 hours
Multi-band GPS without music20 hours22 hours19 hours
GPS-only with music10.5 hours10.5 hours8.5 hours
Multi-band GPS with music20 hours22 hours19 hours

As you can see, despite the higher resolution and the bigger screen, the battery life on the Forerunner 965 still holds its own. There are a few caveats, however, one being the option for the always-on display on the Forerunner 965. When this is turned on, Garmin estimates the battery life in smartwatch mode drops from 23 days to 7 days.

Winner: Forerunner 955 Solar — there’s a clear winner here, and it’s the solar version of the Forerunner 955, which still has the longest GPS battery life as it’s using the power of the sun to recharge. Impressive. 

Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Running and health tracking features 

a photo of the training load on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

Both watches have the same advanced training tools including the Morning Report, Training Readiness metric, Health Snapshot, and running tools like Stamina and ClimbPro. As with a lot of the best Garmin watches, you probably won’t use half of these features, but both the Forerunner 955 and the Forerunner 965 are packed with tools to help you learn more about your performance. 

a photo of training zones on the Garmin Forerunner 955

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)

Behind the bright, beautiful screen, the two watches are pretty much the same. At the time of testing, the Forerunner 965 had the newer Chronic Training Load feature. Where the Acute Load feature measures a short-term sum of your training, Chronic Load focuses on a longer period of 28 days. The information is displayed in a simple gauge — if your Acute and Chronic loads are matched, your number will be 1.0. Anywhere between 0.8 and 1.5 is in the ‘green’ zone. That said, this is going to be rolled out to the Forerunner 955 and Fenix 7 shortly. 

Winner: It’s a tie — this one is too close to call because they are, effectively, the same watch. The Forerunner 955 was a huge improvement on the Forerunner 945 (check out our Forerunner 945 vs Forerunner 955 face-off here), and both watches have an excellent range of advanced training and health metrics. The only notable benefit of the Forerunner 965 is that the AMOLED screen makes viewing maps on the watch a slightly better experience, but you can do so on both watches. 

Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Smartwatch features 

smartphone notifications on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

Once again, this is a tough one to call as these two running watches are the same from a smartwatch perspective. Both watches are designed to be worn 24/7 and have Garmin Pay, allowing you to swipe your watch when commuting. You also get smartphone notifications (although you cannot respond to iOS notifications from either watch), and the ability to listen to music from the watch, allowing you to leave your phone at home and head out for a run. 

The main difference between the two from a smartwatch perspective is the AMOLED screen. It does make the watch feel more premium, and it is brighter and easier to see if you are using your watch to check your notifications on the move. 

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 965 — the brighter OLED display makes the smartwatch features shine 

Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Verdict 

So which Garmin running watch should you buy? The real answer comes down to how much you care about the bright screen of the Forerunner 965. If you’re used to wearing an Apple Watch, or you love the look of your friend’s Epix 2, the screen on the Forerunner 965 makes it worth the upgrade. It’s bright, beautiful, and really does stand out. Underneath, it’s an excellent running watch that has all the tools you’re ever going to need. 

If you’re not bothered about the screen, save your money and buy the Garmin Forerunner 955. You’re getting the same watch underneath, and it’s got slightly better battery life, meaning you’ll go longer between charges. 

Personally, if I’d bought a Forerunner 955 in the past nine months, I’m not sure I’d upgrade just yet. The two watches are very similar, and screen aside, there’s nothing new here. I’d like to see the call functionality available on the Garmin Venu 2, or the flashlight of the Fenix 7X, but at the moment, this is the Forerunner 955 with a (very pretty) facelift.  

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.